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Ex-Rikers guard from Smithtown pleads not guilty to new charges in fatal beating

Former New York City jail guard Brian Coll,

Former New York City jail guard Brian Coll, 46, of Smithtown, pleaded not guilty Thursday to new charges in the 2012 beating death of Ronald Spear, above, at Rikers Island. Photo Credit: AP / Zoe Salzman

A former New York City jail guard from Smithtown pleaded not guilty Thursday to new charges that he beat a man to death at Rikers Island in 2012.

During a hearing on the new charges in federal court in Manhattan, U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska set a May 31, 2016, trial date for ex-guard Brian Coll, 46, charged in the death, and Byron Taylor, 31, of Brentwood, a Rikers guard charged with helping cover up the beating of Ronald Spear.

Taylor also pleaded not guilty. Both men were originally charged in June. Prosecutors this week released a new indictment charging that injuries inflicted when Coll repeatedly kicked Spear led to his death. He faces up to life in prison.

Defense lawyer Samuel A. Schmidt told reporters after Thursday's hearing that Coll expected to beat that charge.

"The review of the medical records, the medical examiner's recommendations, and conversations with our experts makes us confident that the new charge is overreaching and we'll be able to demonstrate that at trial," Schmidt said.

The alleged beating occurred in a medical unit at Rikers, when Spear wanted to see a doctor and Coll told him no one was available. Coll kicked Spear repeatedly in the head while Taylor and another guard restrained him on the ground, prosecutors say.

Spear suffered a "brain bleed," and the death was ruled a homicide with "blunt force trauma to the head" and diabetes as contributing factors to his death from "hypertensive cardiovascular disease."

In addition to life in prison, prosecutors could also theoretically seek the death penalty for the new charge of causing Spear's death, but they have given no indication they intend to do so.

Coll has been unable to make bail, and has been held in a federal jail in Brooklyn since June.

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